By Mary Lu Callahan
For The Catholic Messenger
My husband and I stopped going to Mass last March, when the danger from coronavirus became very real, especially if you were over 60. Our adult children were also adamant that we not expose ourselves to crowds and gatherings. Our parish offered livestream Mass and it did a great job on the digital platform.
Watching a Mass on a screen did not appeal to us, although I realize it has been important to many Catholics. What then should we do? We have attended Mass almost without fail every Sunday of our married life, even when traveling domestically or abroad. Our shared Catholic faith is very important to us individually and in our relationship. We decided on a different way to sacramentalize our Sundays.
Every Sunday morning we sit together and share the lectionary readings for that day. First one of us will read the First Reading, then we talk about it: What is it saying? How does it make me feel right now? Then we read aloud the related entry in the guide
“Breaking Open the Lectionary” by Margaret Nutting Ralph. The author is a Catholic woman who has been involved with adult education and pastoral studies in the church for many years. Her background in Scripture studies gives context to the readings: Who is the intended audience? What message were they trying to convey? We again ask ourselves, How does it speak to me in my life? There are many lectionary aids; we particularly like her approach.
We go through the Second Reading and then the Gospel in the same way. It becomes clearer why the church has put these three selections together for this Sunday. In all our 43 years of married life this is certainly the most spiritual bonding we have had as husband and wife. All of us Catholics have heard the three cycles of the lectionary over and over throughout our lives. But many of us have not taken the time to really talk about them with our spouse, our children or a friend. It has been a wonderful and surprising gift to us in this pandemic time! To focus just on the Scripture readings has reawakened in us the roots of our Christian faith.
Of course, we look forward to again joining our congregation to pray and sing and receive the Eucharist when we feel comfortable attending Mass in person. For now, we experience Jesus in the Word and remember that he told us: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” — Matthew 18:20. In many ways, this is a “desert experience.’ Not how we wish it to be permanently, but a renewal for us when we least expected it. Perhaps it might be a gift for you, too.